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Luka Magnotta trial: Crown questions whether Magnotta lied to Berlin psychiatrist

11/05/2014 07:55 EST | Updated 01/05/2015 05:59 EST
The prosecution grilled a Berlin psychiatrist testifying for Luka Magnotta's defence at his first-degree murder trial Wednesday, suggesting the accused played up psychotic symptoms after his arrest to get a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia on the record.

Dr. Thomas Barth told the court Tuesday that the accused displayed symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hearing voices and feeling spied upon, during the week Magnotta was detained at a psychiatric ward of a Berlin prison in June 2012.

Barth repeated on Wednesday that he and other doctors on his team were convinced Magnotta was not exaggerating the symptoms, adding that they were presented in a real and authentic way.

"I strongly believe Mr. Magnotta was very ill at the time he was treated at my hospital in Berlin," Barth told the court.  

In his main testimony, Barth said he had diagnosed Magnotta as experiencing a "severe psychotic episode related to suspected paranoid schizophrenia," while specifying he did not spend enough time examining the patient for the diagnosis to respect established rules.

Crown presses witness

Crown prosecutor Louis Bouthillier pointed out that the information Magnotta provided to the psychiatrist in their meetings was not complete.

Barth replied he simply documented the chaotic mountain of information the patient relayed, because as the treating psychiatrist, it wasn’t his role to press further.

Bouthillier noted that Magnotta had told Barth about a 2011 visit to a Miami hospital, but the accused had failed to tell Barth anything about an assessment done at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital in April 2012, just a month before the killing of 33-year-old Jun Lin. 

Bouthillier asked Barth if he could explain why the attending psychiatrist at the Jewish General Hospital had concluded that Magnotta did not appear to suffer from bipolar disorder or psychosis.

Barth told the court he was not surprised at hearing that, as some psychotic patients he has treated have appeared stable the day before they committed a serious crime.

A problem with treating schizophrenic patients, the doctor added, was that they generally don’t complain about their symptoms.

The prosecutor's last question to the witness was whether Barth knew that Magnotta had worked as an actor, to which the psychiatrist replied, "No, I didn't know that."

Magnotta has admitted to killing Lin but he has pleaded not guilty, claiming he is not criminally responsible because of mental illness. The Crown contends the killing was premeditated.

Difficult to diagnose

The psychiatrist currently treating Magnotta at the Rivières-des-Prairies detention centre said Magnotta was always co-operative, but at the beginning spoke a lot without precisely answering questions.

Dr. Renée Roy, who resumed her testimony that was suspended Tuesday morning, said in the nearly two years she has been treating Magnotta, he often complained of hearing voices, sometimes likening it to a cellphone in his head.

He also reported he was avoiding the shower because he was worried he would be sexually assaulted, as he had been in the past.

The psychiatrist said in April 2013 that Magnotta became interested in knowing more about his condition but, she noted, it was too difficult to come to a precise diagnosis. She wrote in her report that he displayed histrionic and narcissistic traits.

Roy adjusted the accused’s antipsychotic medication several times to reduce his symptoms, and on her last visit with him in October — after the trial had already begun — she noted Magnotta was not suicidal, nor was he experiencing hallucinations.

Roy will be cross-examined by the prosecution Thursday.

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